Committee narrows new Columbia high school names to three

Monday, October 4, 2010 | 9:48 p.m. CDT; updated 10:17 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 5, 2010

COLUMBIA — Battle, Lakewood and Neil Aslin have risen to the top as potential names for the new high school under construction in northeast Columbia.

Members of a district naming committee decided Monday that instead of making a recommendation to the Columbia School Board this month, they would narrow the list of choices and consider them for another month.

Naming criteria and numbers

The naming committee, made up of a cross-section of district leaders, community members and college students, received 271 submissions for name ideas from the community, some of which were repeated. Although the numbers will have some effect on the decision, the following criteria weigh more heavily:

  1. The name should be easily identifiable with the school.
  2. Names of living individuals should be avoided.
  3. Parts of the school cannot be named separate from the whole.

Here is a look at the numerical breakdown of repeated submissions:

  • Aslin, Neil: 87 submissions
  • Battle, Muriel and Eliot: 84
  • Williams, Helen D.: 10
  • Shaw, Robert: 8
  • Thomas-Bowden, Molly: 8
  • Stawski, Conrad: 7
  • Beary, Bradley: 6, and a petition with 82 signatures
  • Lakewood: 4
  • Columbia East: 3
  • Boone, J.W. "Blind": 2
  • Boone, Daniel: 2
  • Boonslick Trail: 2
  • Lake of the Woods: 2
  • Wiggins, Ruth: 2

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“Even if it doesn’t happen that the names get on the building, it’s a honor to have been considered so strongly by so many,” longtime Columbia educator Eliot Battle said.

The school would be named after him and his wife, Muriel, who died in 2003. Both played a significant role in the integration of the city's public schools.

Because Eliot Battle is still living, the name generated courteous debate among the 15 committee members present (a 16th was absent). Some were concerned it would violate criteria for naming a school, which states that names of living people “should be avoided.” The use of the word "should," they concluded, means there's flexibility.

Members also talked about the love the Battles had for each other and the beauty of their relationship.

The greatest honor, Battle said in an interview earlier Monday, has been receiving copies of some of the recommendation letters. He hopes to get copies of all of them and read each one, then compile them for his children.

“I would pick Battle at the beat of a heart if it were named after both of them,” Alex Dzurick, a committee member who is a junior at MU, told his fellow committee members.

If it were not named after the couple, Dzurick said, he would favor the geographical option: Lakewood. Committee members favored the name because of its association with the location of the school near Lake of the Woods Road. Although they discussed Lake of the Woods as a possibility, Lakewood had a better “flow," several members said.

Committee member Willie Jones said naming the school after a place rather than a person would prevent hurt feelings among those whose nominations weren’t selected.

Jones said that if it were up to him, he would name the school “New Generation High School” or something more conceptual that relates to modern youth.

The name of Neil Aslin, a district superintendent from 1946 to 1962, had the most submissions: 87. The Battle name had 84.

“Dr. Aslin was a fantastic gentleman," Battle said, recalling the man who hired both him and his wife. "He was extremely competent.”

The Battles declined the first two job offers, but after a third interview with the persistent Aslin, they accepted. 

The one setback of naming the school after Aslin would be the potential plays on the name students could create, members said.

Wanda Brown, assistant superintendent for secondary education, reminded committee members that other buildings will need names in upcoming years, so some of these recommendations could be used elsewhere.

If it's not used for the high school, Brown and the committee said Aslin might be a good name for the new administration building.

The committee will meet Nov. 1 to decide which name it will recommend to the board. The high school is scheduled to open in 2013.

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William Moore October 5, 2010 | 10:46 a.m.

Aslin? Seriously??!?! Is this committee deranged? The teasing from other schools would be merciless. A**-LIN. Pleeze. That's worse than Father Augustin Tolton ("FAT"), which is doomed, as well, if it goes by the full name (vs. Father Tolton, or Father Augustin, or just Tolton) The Battles have done more for Columbia and the community than any others I know (anyone who is alive and attended Hickman or West, for sure). Battle High sounds strong, too. It fits with the lame nickname (Spartans) they seemingly chose, too. (do not let 6th grades choose nicknames, btw, originality doesn't reign when you are 12). Lakewood would be a fine 2nd choice but is somewhat boring. Plucking from Columbia/Missouri history makes since. For example, Vandiver High would have been good. Battle High Spartans. Red/Gold. There you have it.

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